Lebanon: Aoun, Mikati Hold Unfruitful Meeting amid Disagreement over Govt Lineup

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met at the Baabda Palace on Wednesday. (Dalati & Nohra)
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met at the Baabda Palace on Wednesday. (Dalati & Nohra)
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Lebanon: Aoun, Mikati Hold Unfruitful Meeting amid Disagreement over Govt Lineup

President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met at the Baabda Palace on Wednesday. (Dalati & Nohra)
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati met at the Baabda Palace on Wednesday. (Dalati & Nohra)

A meeting on Wednesday between President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati failed to advance the talks over the formation of a new government.

Well-informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that the two officials disagreed over the government lineup and the number of ministers.

The sources noted that Mikati preferred to maintain a government of 24 ministers, and replace the minister of the Displaced, Issam Sharafeddine, and Economy Minister Amin Salam, while Aoun was pushing for adding six ministers of state to the lineup, in order to form a political cover for the government, in the event of a presidential vacuum.

In remarks following the meeting, the prime minister-designate said that discussions would be continued later.

The Presidency, for its part, noted Aoun and Mikati “tackled the various details pertaining to the formation process and would continue consultations at a later time.”

While some politicians were still relying on external and internal pressures to form a government, indirect disputes and exchange of accusations continued between the political blocs supporting Mikati on the one hand, and the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) headed by MP Gebran Bassil – Aoun’s son-in-law, on the other.

FPM MP Salim Aoun spoke about “some parties’ attempt to impose their conditions on the movement, while the Lebanon 24 website, which is affiliated with Mikati, launched an attack on Bassil, accusing him of obstructing the formation of the government.

In a radio interview, Aoun said that the Baabda meeting on Wednesday was the result of external and internal opinions that are pushing for a breakthrough in the ongoing efforts to form a government in order to avoid a vacuum.”

On the other hand, MP Michel Moussa, member of the Development and Liberation bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, underlined the need for a new government that would handle pressing files, including the demarcation of the maritime borders and the ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Concessions from all sides are required today to facilitate the formation of a government…” he said in a radio conversation.



WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
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WHO Says Many People in Gaza Facing ‘Famine-like Conditions’

Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)
Israeli soldiers operate inside the Gaza Strip, as seen from southern Israel, on Feb. 13, 2024. (AP)

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing "catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions".

"A significant proportion of Gaza's population is now facing catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"Despite reports of increased delivery of food, there is currently no evidence that those who need it most are receiving sufficient quantity and quality of food."

Tedros said there were more than 8,000 children under five years old who have been diagnosed and treated for acute malnutrition, including 1,600 children with severe acute malnutrition.

"However, due to insecurity and lack of access, only two stabilization centers for severely malnourished patients can operate," he added.

"Our inability to provide health services safely, combined with the lack of clean water and sanitation, significantly increases the risk of malnourished children."

The war in Gaza began on Oct. 7 when fighters led by Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis and took more than 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's response has caused the deaths of more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Gazan health ministry, displaced most of Gaza's population of 2.3 million and caused widespread hunger and destruction.

A UN inquiry on Wednesday found that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes early in the Gaza war, and that Israel's actions also constituted crimes against humanity because of the immense civilian losses.

Tedros also highlighted a separate health crisis in the West Bank, where he said healthcare had been targeted by nearly 500 attacks since Oct. 7.

"While the world's focus has been on Gaza, there is also an escalating health crisis in the West Bank, where attacks on healthcare and restrictions on movement of people are obstructing access to health services," he said.

"In most areas of the West Bank, clinics are only operating two days a week and hospitals are operating at about 70% capacity."